Monahan’s Take On 2020 NM Legislature Short Session and More; A “So-So” 30-Day Session Comes To An End

The 2020 New Mexico 30-day Legislative Session adjoined Thursday, February 20 at 12:00 Noon, with adjournment referred to or announced as “sine die”.
Political blogger Joe Monahan on his blog “New Mexico Politics With Joe Monahan” published an article on the “Hits And Misses” highlights of the 30 day short session. Below is Joe Monahan’ February 19, 2020 blog followed by his website address.

This blog article also elaborates on highlights of legislation worth mentioning.

“Thursday, February 20, 2020
The Hits And Misses of Legislative Session 2020
BY Joe Monahan

“As these things go the legislative session set to adjourn at noon today wasn’t bad and like all of them this one had its share of hits and misses.

THE HITS

–They finished their main task, crafting a state budget of $7.6 billion for the fiscal year that begins July 1 and represents a 7.6 percent increase over the current one. Teachers and state employees get another round of pay raises and more state vacancies will be filled.

Thanks to the SE oil boom the budget has grown from $6 billion in the past two sessions but as several lawmakers noted there were no or tiny increases under eight years of Gov. Martinez and that the budget basically catches up with inflation and a bit more.

—The long running early childhood crisis in the state received more attention than uusal. An Early Childhood Trust Fund of $320 million was approved that supporters hope will put $30 million annually toward the cause but there is no guarantee. The fund plan is flawed and modest and anything but “transformational” as supporters argued, but it was a welcome turn.

—The proposed constitutional amendment for early childhood would provide a guaranteed source for early childhood from the nearly $20 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund. It scored a big win when two Dem senators switched their position in favor of it and it passed Senate Rules. However, in the end opposition again killed it. So a hit and a miss on that one.

—The conservative coalition of Republicans and a handful of conservate/moderate Democrats finally showed cracks in the wall after a decade in power. The biggest coming when Sen. Clemente Sanchez voted in Rules for a scaled down version of the early childhood amendment. He faces a June primary opponent but also noted the state’s dismal ranking in child well-being and he wants change. Senator Munoz, another coalition member, unexpectedly voted for the Red Flag law, signaling that the Senate is loosening up a bit–just a bit.

–The Legislature killed a misguided plan to reform the Public Regulation Commission (PRC). Voters will decide a reform plan in November.

–The Red Flag law getting approved in the wake of the El Paso mass shooting was a job well done. It was amended to be not as stringent, but still sent a clear signal that the state values human life. (It was also a major win for MLG even though it will give her heartburn in the south) EDITOR’S NOTE: SEE BELOW FOR MORE DETAIL ON RED FLAG LEGISLATION ENACTED

–The move to legalize marijuana failed. That’s “a hit” because the state is simply not ready for it, especially under the complex legislation that was readily dismissed. Its time may come, but not yet.

–Infrastructure was another hit as the annual capital outlay bill was over $520 million. That is a lot of buildings, road repairs, water system updates and the like. And we’re told there’s even $5,000 tucked away in the bill for a capitol statue for the late Sen. Carlos Cisneros. New Mexicans can thank the oil boom for this second year of an immense capital outlay bill.

THE MISSES

–The “reform bill” for the government employee retirement fund known as PERA was perhaps the most unnecessary piece of legislation approved this year. That pleased Wall Street which will get more state pension funds to invest as a result.

It was strange seeing the ardor for this bill that fixated on retiree checks 25 years from now, even as we face a social conditions crisis in education, crime and drugs this very day. By the way, there is no PERA “crisis” according to the Brookings Institution.

–Another miss was lawmakers not getting more specific in targeting the increase in education funding to address the “at risk” student population. They were at the center of a district court ruling that found the state was in violation of the Constitution for not providing them with adequate education. It’s a theme that House Education Committee Chairman Andres Romero will be hitting on in the off season.

–The “opportunity scholarship” offering free higher education was a miss. The Guv unveiled it as a top priority but did not have her ducks in a row. The problems with the legislation became an unneeded distraction and was greatly watered down.

All 112 lawmakers are up for election this year so they tried to keep things relatively quiet, to the chagrin of the political junkies. But there were signs that the senate’s long running budget dominance over the House has peaked. Speaker Egolf’s public complaints were notable and that may be what’s most remembered about the session.

Now attention turns to the election. The June primary will be one of the most important in recent memory as progressive challengers take on at least four coalition Dems who help control the senate. Then it’s on to November to see if the R’s can take back some of the House seats they lost in ’18 and whether the Dems can make inroads against GOP senators.

THE BOTTOM LINES

If you’re free this Sunday at 11 a.m., join me at Collected Bookworks in Santa Fe as we dissect the 2020 session with Santa Fe Journey.”

The link to Joe Monahan’s blog is http://joemonahansnewmexico.blogspot.com/ and his email address is newsguy@yahoo.com

ACRIMONIOUS FINAL HOURS

The final hours before adjournment were dominated by clashes between lawmakers over procedures and slow-moving debate as Republican legislators sought to limit the flow of legislation supported by the Democratic majorities in both chambers. Final approval of the main budget bill which authorizes a substantial increase in state spending, fueled by an oil-driven revenue boom, resulted in an intense confrontation in the House overnight. Between House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, and Republican lawmakers of cutting off debate too quickly.

BUDGET DETAILS

The New Mexico legislature adjourned their 30-day session after overnight approval of the $7.6 billion spending plan. The enacted budget increases spending by 7.6% over current levels. The new budget includes $17 million for the new college scholarship program sought by Lujan Grisham. The $17 million is much less than the Governor had initially requested. The goal is to provide need-based tuition aid for full-time students who already qualify for a separate, lottery-funded scholarship program.

PUBLIC EMPLOYEE RETIREES ASSOCIATION (PERA) SOLVENCY

The 2020 New Mexico Legislature enacted what they believed to be a PERA Solvency legislation that is aimed at erasing the state pension system’s $6.6 billion unfunded liability. The goal is to turn around New Mexico’s chronically underfunded retirement system for police, firefighters and other public employees. The legislation is largely based on recommendations from a task force Governor Lujan Grisham appointed last year to come up with pension reform recommendations. The Governor’s PERA Pension reform task force was essentially packed with public safety union representation with their own political agenda to protect their own funds and none who had any financial background in government pensions. Pension reform proposals were made by the task force to the detriment of other pension programs arguing “spread the pain” among all.

The most controversial provision of the legislation is that it will freeze many retirees cost of living adjustments (COLA) for two years and then move to a “profit-sharing” model with annual raises fluctuating from 0.5% to 3%, depending on investment returns and the financial health of the pension fund. The legislation will require government agencies and their employees to pay more into the pension system. It also substantially revises how retirees’ annual cost-of-living adjustments are calculated. Most retirees now get a 2% raise each year. SB 72 includes an injection of $76 million to help improve the financial health of the pension funds.

During her campaign, candidate for Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said she would oppose cuts to benefits, including any reduction in the annual inflation-related pension adjustments that retired state workers and teachers receive. The PERA solvency plan the Governor supported alienated some of her strongest supporters but she could not care less.

It has become the mantra of some pension fund administrators, financial consultants that benefit from such schemes and ideological zealots that government pension funds must be 100% funded. These individuals are wrong as was the Governor. The Governor bought into the bogus argument the there is a PERA financial crisis, when there is not. The Governor fast tracked pension reform in a 30-day session to favor public safety pension programs at the expense of existing retirees and other pension programs that are not underfunded as the public safety programs.

Rather than reducing Cost of Living Adjustments the legislature could have made adjustments like increasing age of retirement, change the formula to calculate retirement, make increases in contributions and infuse state funding into the pension funds, but only those that are underfunded which currently the municipal fire fighters fund and the general worker fund. Better management of the pension funds and increasing returns on investment with benchmarks should have been enacted to pay for future benefits. Instead, the “task force” recommendations were followed which were nothing more than a political agenda and not in the best interest of all retirees, something that no doubt will be remembered when the Governor seeks a second term.

PUBLIC WORKS PACKAGE

Lawmakers overnight also granted final approval to a $528 million spending package on public works. It includes about $4.1 million to plan for a new professional soccer complex in Albuquerque and about $4.6 million to preserve more open space near the oxbow wetlands on the city’s West Side. Spaceport America in Sierra County would get about $10 million for a payload center and information technology building.
The $528 Million capital spending package approved includes funding of $6 million to upgrade the computer-aided dispatch and records system for the Albuquerque Police Department, $1.8 million is being allocated to improve the APD laboratory and evidence warehouse which is still dealing with the back log of rape kits and $2.5 million is being allocated for a crime scene vehicle. The total “public safety” outlay for Albuquerque is $10.3 million. The Keller Administration asked for $10 million for a statewide Violence Intervention Program (VIP) which would have gone to create programs aimed at reducing teen crime, but lawmakers chose not to fund the VIP project.

The $528 Million capital spending package approved by the House includes $4.1 million that will go toward the design, planning and construction of a sports and cultural center, including art exhibits, playing fields and dining and retail space. The $4.1 in funding is intended to be applied to the effort to build a soccer stadium for New Mexico United, a professional team in Albuquerque. The team now plays at Isotopes Park and within a year must have a permanent dedicated stadium.

It is estimated that it will cost $75 million to build a 15,000-seat stadium. United owner Peter Trevisani said the team is prepared to put $1 million or more funding into the planning and design phase for the stadium, which would include a site and project funding analysis. Other potential funding sources include naming rights and borrowing money backed by future stadium revenues commonly referred to as revenue bonds.

CRIME BILL PACKAGE

A public safety package was enacted in the final hours of the session that stiffened criminal penalties. The “public safety” package was a consolidation of separate Bills into on “crime package”. The crime bill increases the sentencing enhancement for using a gun to commit a crime from 1 year to 3 years for a first offense, and from 3 years to 5 years for the second offense, but is not mandatory sentencing and leaves it to the discretion of the court. The bill changes the crime of being a “felon in possession of a firearm” from a 4th degree felony to a 3rd degree felony. The bill changes the definition of a “felon” and would include anyone who has ever been convicted of a felony no matter the time passed. Under the current law, the definition of a felon includes only those who have completed a prison sentence in the previous 10 years from the date of the most current conviction. The bill makes it a 3rd degree felony to carry a firearm while trafficking a controlled substance. A 3rd degree felony carries a sentence of three years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines.

RED FLAG BILL PASSAGE

Senate Bill 5 establishes the Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order Act. It will allow for the court-ordered seizure of guns from individuals deemed an imminent danger to themselves or others. Under the legislation, it allows law enforcement officers, acting on information provided by a relative, school administrator or employer, to seek a court order prohibiting someone from having firearms. Exclusive authority is given to law enforcement to make the decision to file a petition, but the petition must be based on whether there’s probable cause to believe the individual “poses a significant danger of causing imminent personal injury to self or others.” A court could order the temporary seizure of the person’s firearms for up to 10 days and until a hearing could be held. After a hearing, the ban could be extended one year. The original version of the bill would have allowed family and others to file the petitions, but that was taken out as a compromise to those that claimed that it would result in abuse.

Senate Bill 5 is a natural extension of the 2019 New Mexico Legislature passage of Senate Bill 328 which prohibits gun possession by someone who’s subject to an order of protection under the Family Violence Protection Act. Under the enacted legislation domestic abusers must surrender their firearms to law enforcement. The gun possession prohibition also applies to people convicted of other crimes.

ENDING SECRET SETTLEMENTS

The New Mexico legislature enacted SB 64 which ended the practice of “secrete settlements. The legislation removes all waiting periods required before settlement agreements involving state employees, officials and agencies where the State pays amounts to settled cases can be made public. The legislation also removes the existing penalty for those who break confidentiality provisions.

GATEWAY HOMELESS SHELTER FUNDING SETBACK

The $528 Million capital spending package contains no large infusion of funding set aside to help Albuquerque build the “Gateway Center” homeless shelter that would be open around the clock seven days a week. The capital outlay bill includes a mere $50,000 for the Gateway Center construction, fall short of what is needed to complete the project. The bill does contain $4 million for supportive housing for homeless, but that money cannot be used for construction costs of the shelter.

With only $14 million in place, the city only has enough to complete the first phase of the project. The city will now have to find funding elsewhere within the city budget or wait another year to ask for funding in the 2021 legislative session. During last year’s 2019 legislative session, the city sought $28 million for the project. The legislature funded only $985,000 last year for construction costs.

LEGISLATION THAT DIED UPON ADJOURNMENT

Some of the most ambitious proposals of the session died upon adjournment with the legislation never making it out of Senate committees after approval in the House. Proposals to overhaul the probation and parole system and to tap more heavily into New Mexico’s largest permanent fund failed to reach the Senate floor in time for a vote. A Senate committee rejected a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana for adults and it never reached the House for any vote.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1422928/76b-budget-88-bills-get-through-session.html

CONCLUSION

The accomplishments and legislation enacted during the 2020 New Mexico 30-day legislative session is a mixed bag. Notwithstanding, it was a continuation of the very successful 2019 legislative session. Consequential legislation was enacted that made it a success. It is more likely than not that during the 2021 legislative session the Governor and the legislature will again tackle legalization “recreational marijuana” as well as full funding of the homeless shelter and a soccer stadium for a United New Mexico.

ABQ Public Safety And Soccer Stadium Win Out Over “Gateway Homeless Shelter”; $528 Million Capital Spending Bill Passes 2020 Legislature

The 2020 New Mexico legislature ends today, February 20 at 12:00. On February 18, less than 48 hours before the 2020 legislative session adjourns, the New Mexico House of Representatives voted 60-0 to pass a $528 million capital spending bill. Late Wednesday, February 19, the New Mexico Senate approved the capital outlay bill 40-0. The bill will now be sent to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham who has line-item veto power.

The majority of the $528 million capital spending is funded through severance tax bonds. Severance taxes bonds are backed by future tax revenue generated by the extraction of oil, natural gas or other natural resources. Some of the capital projects provided for in the bill will be paid from the State’s general fund or other recurring funding sources.

The good news for Albuquerque is that the city’s delegation delivered on successively securing funding for the city’s public safety priorities. The bad news is that the city’s proposed “Gateway Homeless Shelter” took a hit calling into question if it will ever get built.

PUBLIC SAFETY

On November 19, Mayor Tim Keller announced that he had asked New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico State Legislature for $30 million in funding during the upcoming 2020 legislative session to “modernize” APD. Keller said $20 million dollars of that will go to changing the way police file reports and produce crime stats and how they connect all the crime-fighting data into one. The $20 million in upgrades in the city’s existing crime-fighting technology includes upgrades to the Albuquerque Police Departments (APD) computer and records systems. The systems are used by APD police in their assigned squad cars and the mobile crime scene units. It also includes funding for new technology in gunshot detection devices and license plate scanners. The funding was in serious doubt when it was reported that there was a major delay in filing of appropriation legislation.

The $528 Million capital spending package approved by the House includes funding of $6 million to upgrade the computer-aided dispatch and records system for the Albuquerque Police Department, $1.8 million is being allocated to improve the APD laboratory and evidence warehouse which is still dealing with the back log of rape kits and $2.5 million is being allocated for a crime scene vehicle. The total “public safety” outlay for Albuquerque is $10.3 million. The Keller Administration asked for $10 million for a statewide Violence Intervention Program (VIP) which would have gone to create programs aimed at reducing teen crime, but lawmakers chose not to fund the VIP project

GATEWAY HOMELESS SHELTER

On November 5, 2019 Albuquerque voters approved general obligation bonds of $14 million for a city operated 24-7 homeless shelter that will house upwards of 300. The actual cost will be $30 million. Mayor Tim Keller’s administration had sought $14 million in state funding for the “Gateway Center” homeless project to match $14 million that city voters approved in the last bond election.

The $528 Million capital spending package contains no large infusion of funding set aside to help Albuquerque build the “Gateway Center” homeless shelter that would be open around the clock seven days a week. The capital outlay bill includes a mere $50,000 for the Gateway Center construction, fall short of what is needed to complete the project. The bill does contain $4 million for supportive housing for homeless, but that money cannot be used for construction costs of the shelter.

With only $14 million in place, the city only has enough to complete the first phase of the project. The city will now have to find funding elsewhere within the city budget or wait another year to ask for funding in the 2021 legislative session. During last year’s 2019 legislative session, the city sought $28 million for the project. The legislature funded only $985,000 last year for construction costs.

No real reasons have reported why the New Mexico legislature has declined to help with the “Gateway Center” funding that is needed to complete it. Speculation from Santa Fe legislative observers have said that the New Mexico legislature does not believe “homelessness” is a state wide issue but an Albuquerque issue. Keller has said the goal is to break ground next winter.

HOMELESS SHELTER VERSUS SOCCER STADIUM

The primary purpose of the 2020 New Mexico 30-day legislative session is enactment of the budget. The session ended on February 20. The $528 Million Capital Spending Package bill passed by the House was approved by the Senate and forwarded to the

The $528 Million capital spending package approved by the House includes $4.1 million that will go toward the design, planning and construction of a sports and cultural center, including art exhibits, playing fields and dining and retail space. The $4.1 in funding is intended to be applied to the effort to build a soccer stadium for New Mexico United, a professional team in Albuquerque. The team now plays at Isotopes Park and within a year must have a permanent dedicated stadium.

It is estimated that it will cost $75 million to build a 15,000-seat stadium. United owner Peter Trevisani said the team is prepared to put $1 million or more funding into the planning and design phase for the stadium, which would include a site and project funding analysis. Other potential funding sources include naming rights and borrowing money backed by future stadium revenues commonly referred to as revenue bonds.

Notwithstanding, a full financing package has yet been developed. New Mexico United Soccer owner Pete Trevisani had this to say about the $4.1 million in funding:

“I think it’s a great start. … It shows a commitment to vetting the project, and I think with the city, state and the private sector all working together, this time next year we could be funding and getting close to breaking ground on a stadium.”

According to NM State Representative Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, at least 20 lawmakers have already contributed from their discretionary money to fund the stadium despite not knowing exactly where in Albuquerque it would be built. Maestas said that his own contribution was “a couple hundred thousand dollars” and he believes the Legislature’s support for the stadium may be enough to purchase land at the preferred site. Maestas did not contribute to the Albuquerque homeless shelter but did contribute to the stadium funding.

Many unknowns ostensibly did not hurt stadium support among lawmakers, but the opposite was true when it came to the city’s homeless shelter. According to Representative Maestas, the lack of concrete plans and the city is still evaluating shelter probably affected legislative funding for the shelter. Maestas explained legislative reluctance to the shelter this way:

“I think members are reluctant to put into a pot unless they’re for sure knowing that that pot is going to get spent in the next 12 months. … Not only do these capital dollars provide services, but they also boost our economy, so those bigger projects are difficult. That may have come into play with regard to the support, but I don’t know that for a fact.”

For news reports see:

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/lawmakers-approve-funding-for-some-capital-outlay-projects-for-albuquerque/5650329/?cat=500

https://www.abqjournal.com/1421964/lawmakers-spend-on-public-safety-and-stadium-scrimp-on-shelter.html

NEW MEXICO “POINT IN TIME” HOMELESS COUNT

Each year, the “Point in Time” (PIT) survey is conducted to determine how many people experience homelessness on a given night, and to learn more about their specific needs. The PIT survey is conducted on only one night to determine how many people experience homelessness and to learn more about their specific needs. The PIT count is done in communities across the country in both urban and rural areas, and counting both sheltered and unsheltered homeless people. The PIT count is the official number of homeless reported by communities to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for funding and to help understand the extent of homelessness at the city, state, regional and national levels.

According to the PIT, New Mexico had the nation’s largest percentage increase in homelessness from 2018 to 2019 in the nation with an increase of 27%. New Mexico also had a 57.6% increase in chronic homelessness last year, also the highest in the nation. The percentage increase in Albuquerque’s homeless population alone rose by 15%. In New Mexico there were 2,464 homeless people in 2019 and of that total, 1,283 persons, or about 52%, were chronically homeless.

ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY

The primary purpose of the 2020 New Mexico 30-day legislative session that ends February 20 is the enactment of the state budget for the fiscal year that commences July 1, 2020. The $528 Million capital spending bill enacted by the House and Senate was enacted with just hours to spare but could still change somewhat with the Governor’s line item veto power, but it is more likely than not she will sign it.

NM House $528 million capital spending package, like all capital spending package bills, is the result of a secretive committee process in which legislators and the governor each have discretionary money to earmark for their pet projects. Each legislator was given $3.047 million for projects they deem were necessary in their districts whether needed or not. Sometimes, legislators will combine their allocation to fund major projects.

The proposed soccer stadium, and for that matter, the homeless shelter are such projects. Most of the time lawmakers fund small projects in their districts that they can go back to their constituents and take credit for funding. Such smaller project funding give a great advantage to incumbents and are very important to small rural communities in the state. Proposals that would require additional transparency in the capital funding process have repeatedly failed year after year in the Roundhouse. Legislators no doubt do not want to be called out for failing to support or advocating projects come election time.

It is always a source of great wonderment when elected officials, including Governors, legislators, Mayor’s and City councilors proclaim how they support and want “transparency” in government, especially when it comes to spending taxpayer money, but when push comes to shove, they do not want to make public the process used to finance major capital projects.

It is downright pathetic how the New Mexico legislature feels that the construction of a $75 million dollar soccer stadium should take priority over $14 million in construction cost for a homeless shelter that is so desperately needed ignoring New Mexico again being on top of yet another bad list.

APD Starts Media Recruitment Campaign; Incentives To Attract Recruits Offered; APD Continues Having Problem Attracting New Generation of Police

On December 1, 2019 when former Republican Mayor Richard Berry was sworn into office, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) was staffed at 1,100 police officers. At the time, APD was the best trained, best funded, best equipped and best staffed in the history of the Department. The city’s overall crime rates were significantly lower than they are today.

For the full 8 years from December 1, 2019 to December 1, 2017, APD spiraled down wards as a result of poor management, budget cuts, police salary cuts and an investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) resulting in a finding of a “culture of aggression” within the department. The DOJ investigation resulted in a lawsuit and a consent decree mandating major reforms. When Mayor Keller took office on December 1, 2017, APD had plunged to approximately 870 full time police officers and the numbers went down even further to 830 at one time.

APD EXPANSION

In 2017, Candidate Tim Keller campaigned to be elected mayor on the platform of implementing the DOJ mandated reforms, increasing the size of the Albuquerque Police Department, returning to community-based policing and promising to bring down skyrocketing crime rates. To that end, the Keller Administration began implementing an $88 million-dollar APD police expansion program increasing the number of sworn police officers from 898 positions filled to 1,200, or by 302 sworn police officers, over a four-year period. The massive investment was ordered by Mayor Tim Keller to full fill his 2017 campaign promise to increase the size of APD and return to community-based policing as a means to reduce the city’s high crime rates.

In 2018, The Keller Administration and the APD Union were able to negotiate a 2-year contract. The Albuquerque Police Department’s very generous hourly pay increases and increased longevity pay incentive bonuses allowed APD to recruit experienced police officers from other New Mexico law enforcement agencies. APD was able to recruit sworn police officers as “lateral hires” from other law enforcement agencies in the State of New Mexico. In August, 2019 APD reported having 980 officers by growing the ranks with both new cadets and lateral hires from other departments, including APD retirees. The Police officers who left other agencies to join APD are some of the more experienced and highly trained officers at the agencies they are leaving.

APD has an approved general fund budget for fiscal year 2019-2020 of $188.9 million dollars, which represents an increase of 10.7% or $18.3 million above last year’s budget. It is anticipated that the 2020-2021 APD Budget which will be submitted April1, will be even bigger. According to the current approved budget, APD has 1,560 approved full-time positions with 1,040 sworn police budgeted positions and 520 budgeted civilian positions. You can review the entire APD approved budget here:

http://documents.cabq.gov/budget/fy-19-approved-budget.pdf (Page 209)

On August 1, 2019, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) issued what it entitled “Staffing Snapshot” providing a report on the number of sworn police officers APD has and where they have been assigned. According to the report, APD as of August 1, 2019 had a total of 972 sworn officers with 600 officers in the field patrolling 6 area commands and neighborhoods. The snapshot does not account for time delays from Human Resources and Payroll that have effective dates and retirements into the future.

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/apd-staffing-numbers-how-many-officers-are-in-your-neighborhood-/5449523/?cat=500

As of January 1, 2020, according to pay stubs on file with the city, APD has 950 sworn police officers. The loss of 22 sworn police can be attributed to retirements and the Police Academy not keeping up with replacing officers. There is an APD Academy Class in session that should result in 35 to 40 more new officers added to the force in the Spring.

APD BEGINS RECRUITMENT CAMPAIGN

On January 7, 2020, it was reported that APD has instituted an aggressive recruitment campaign. In the previous years, APD had one person in charge of recruitment. APD recruitment has increased from 1 to 4 full-time recruiting officers. Further, others within the department work on efforts that has helped double cadet class sizes in the past year. According to APD Recruiting Director Dave Romo, APD has already made recruitment trips to Michigan, Florida and Texas and will be going to Los Angeles and Colorado.

The recruitment campaign includes a media campaign. APD unveiled a new recruitment video on social media using current officers to highlight what it means to be a police officer and the journey it takes to become one. The video is just one part of a public relations campaign for APD looking for hundreds of people to join the police force and start a law enforcement career. Police recruitment videos and advertising are a very common practice across the country and have been used by APD in the past.

In a recruitment video, an Albuquerque Police Officer appears and says:

“I was making a choice to change my life, and do something good with it and help others with similar situations like me … The day I decided to be a police officer was one of the single greatest days of my life. … If I can, you can!”

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/apd-launches-new-recruitment-video-campaign/5601233/

Director of APD Recruiting Dave Romo had this to say about the videos:

“We like to call it the heart behind the badge because that’s one thing that’s never recognized is that, you know, behind each badge there’s a human being. We are looking at ways that are not only out of the box but are also assisting the community to join our police department, get in our academy and be successful. … If it helps us recruit one officer, then it’s worthwhile. We’re looking to recruit not only basic officers but lateral police officers. We’ve hired probably over 75 lateral police officers in the last year. ”

According to Romo, the video campaign is designed to humanize officers with the hopes of more people into the department. APD’s numbers have now increased in the last two years from a low of 820 sworn police to 950 sworn officers.

OTHER INCENTIVES BEING OFFERED

In addition to the recruitment video, APD is offering new incentives to new recruits. Those incentives include:

Free child care for single parents during their time at APD’s training academy
Offering free gym memberships around town to help new recruits meet APD’s fitness requirements.
Assistance in paying off student loans
APD also plans to advertise more around the city, like on city buses. You can expect to see that later this year.
Mayor Keller’s goal is to have a total of 1,200 officers on APD’s force.
For news stories see:

https://www.krqe.com/news/albuquerque-metro/albuquerque-police-offers-new-incentives-to-join-apd/

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/apd-launches-new-recruitment-video-campaign/5601233/?cat=500

LUCRATIVE PAY AND INCENTIVE PAY

A critical component to attracting more people to join APD is pay, including incentive pay to experienced officers to reduce retirements. In 2018, The Keller Administration and the APD Union negotiated and agreed to a 2-year contract.

Starting pay for an APD Police Officer immediately out of the APD academy is $29 an hour or $60,320 yearly. (40 hour work week X 52 weeks in a year = 2,080 hours worked in a year X $29 paid hourly = $60,320.)
Police officers with 4 to 14 years of experience are paid $30 an hour or $62,400 yearly. (40-hour work weeks in a year X 52 weeks in a year = 2,080 hours worked in a year X $30 paid hourly = $62,400.)
Senior Police Officers with 15 years or more experience are paid $31.50 an hour or $65,520 yearly. (40 hours work in a week X 52 weeks in year = 2,080 hours worked in a year X $31.50 = $65,520.)
The rate for APD Sergeants is $35 an hour, or $72,800. (40-hour work week X 52 weeks in a year = 2080 hours worked in a year X $35.0 paid hourly = $72,800.)
The rate for APD Lieutenants pay is $40.00 an hour or $83,200. (40 hour work week X 52 weeks in a year = 2080 hours worked in a year X $40.00 = $83,200.)

HIGHEST PAID CITY HALL EMPLOYEES ARE POLICE OFFICERS

APD Patrol Officers First Class are some of the highest paid city hall employees.

There are approximately 5,000 full time city hall employees. A review of the city’s 250 top earners in 2018 reveals that 140 are sworn police officers working for APD, mostly patrol officers first class and 40 are employed by Albuquerque Fire and Rescue. The 140 top wage city hall wage earners employed by the Albuquerque Police Department include patrol officers first class, sergeants, lieutenants, commanders the deputy chiefs, and the chief with annual pay ranging from $101,000 a year up to $192,937 a year.

(See City of Albuquerque website for full list of 250 top city wage earners).

Five (5) APD Senior Patrol Officers First Class are listed in the top 250 city wage earners for 2018 as being paid $166,692, $163,223, $160,692, $152,876 and $151,313 respectfully making them the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 10th, and 11th highest paid employees at city hall. The amounts paid in excess of $100,000 a year to patrol officers first class can be attributed mostly to overtime pay and “time and a half” paid.

LONGEVITY PAY

A major incentive for working for APD is the longevity pay, which can be described as a one lump bonus paid at the end of a pay year for number of years’ experience The approved longevity pay scale is as follows:

For 5 years of experience: $100 will be paid bi-weekly, or $2,600 yearly
For 6 years of experience: $125 will be paid bi-weekly, or $3,250 yearly
For 7 to 9 years of experience: $225 will be paid bi-weekly, or $5,800 yearly
For 10 to 12 years of experience: $300 will be paid bi-weekly, or $7,800 yearly
For 13 to 15 years o experience: $350 will be paid bi-weekly, or $9,100 yearly
For 16 to 17 years or more: $450 will be paid bi-weekly, or $11,700 yearly
For 18 or more years of experience: $600 will be paid bi-weekly, 15,600 yearly

Specialty pay and longevity bonuses offered by APD can add $100 to $600 to an officer’s paycheck. Time employed by lateral at other law enforcement agencies qualify for the APD longevity bonuses.

APD announced in October, 2018 that officers from other departments are eligible to get credit for up to 10 years of experience they have had with other law enforcement agencies which means $3,900 longevity pay after working for APD for only 1 year. In the past, lateral hires were given credit for only half of their previous work experience. That work experience directly increases an officer’s pay in the form of yearly incentive retention bonuses.

HEAVY WORK LOAD REFLECTED BY CALLS FOR SERVICE ARE OVERWHELMING

According to the 2019-2020 approved budget, in the last fiscal year APD responded to the following:

The number of calls for service was 580,238
Average response time for Priority 1 calls (immediate threat to life) was 12:26 minutes
The number of felony arrests was 9,592
The number of misdemeanor arrests was 18,442
The number of DWI arrests was 1,403
The number of domestic violence arrests was 2,356
You can review the performance measures of APD on page 211 of the budget here:
http://documents.cabq.gov/budget/fy-19-approved-budget.pdf

DIFFCULTY IN FILLING APD RANKS

Despite all the incentives and pay increases, APD continues to struggle to recruit and grow the department to the desired level of 1,200 sworn as promised by Mayor Keller. Part of the problem includes the qualifications mandated in order to have a quality police officer and the steps required to become one.

MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS TO BE AN ALBQUERQUE POLICE OFFICER

All prospective Albuquerque Police Department officers must meet the following eligibility criteria:

1. Be a US citizen and at least 21 years old at the time of police academy graduation
2. Have a high school diploma or GED, and possess a valid driver’s license.
3. Applicants must have completed a minimum of 32 college credits unless the applicant has at least of two years of experience with and received an honorable discharge from the United States military.
4. Two years of continuous service as an Albuquerque police service aid or prisoner transport officer or five years of continuous service in a government or private sector position may also qualify for a waiver of the college credit requirement.
5. Immediate disqualification occurs if an applicant has a felony conviction, has been convicted of domestic violence, or has been convicted of a misdemeanor within three years of the application date.

STEPS TO BECOME AND ALBUQUERQUE POLICE OFFICER

Having the “minimum” qualifications to be an Albuquerque Police Officer only gives you an opportunity to test for the job.

The actual steps that must be taken to become an Albuquerque Police Officer are complicated and are as follows:

1. Meet the minimum qualifications for prospective officers and verify your eligibility by submitting an interest card to the Albuquerque Police Department.
2. Take the City Entrance Exam, which is similar to a civil service exam.
3. Submit a personal history statement.
4. Pass a physical abilities test.
5. Take the Nelson-Denny Reading Test (Note: this is a multiple-choice test measuring skill in vocabulary and reading.)
6. Submit the required personal documents, such as a credit report and photograph.
7. Complete a written psychological evaluation and background investigation.
8. Take a polygraph exam.
9. Complete a psychological interview.
10. Attend a panel interview with the Chief’s Selection Committee.
11. Complete a medical exam and drug screen.
12. Accept a conditional hire offer and attend the police academy.
13. Begin working as an Albuquerque patrol officer and [completing six months of patrol work with another sworn officer].

https://www.criminaljusticedegreeschools.com/criminal-justice-resources/police-departments-by-metro-area/albuquerque-officer-requirements/#requirements.

CONTRIBUTING FACTORS HAMPERING RECRUITMENT

Notwithstanding the recruitment efforts, lucrative pay and incentives offered, APD is still severely understaffed and struggling to implement expansive and expensive Department of Justice (DOJ) agreed to and mandated reforms. Recruiting a younger, new generation of sworn police officers and growing the size of the police department has become very difficult and unachievable for any number of reasons.

There are any number of reasons why so many sworn police retire as soon as they have been employed for the number of years required to be able to retire at an early age. Those reasons include:

1. APD’s poor and negative national reputation.
2. Albuquerque’s high violent crime rates are not conducive to attracting people who want to begin a long-term career in law enforcement in Albuquerque.
3. The increased dangers of being a police officer in a violent city such as Albuquerque.
4. An APD police officers heavy work load
4. The DOJ oversight requirements.
5. Many recruited lateral hires may also be looking to retire sooner rather than later, coming to the City to increase their high three salary to retire with a more lucrative pension and collect the longevity pay bonuses, and
6. From a personnel management standpoint, it is highly likely that many APD police officers who are eligible for retirement now have decided to stay on and continue for a few more years with APD because of the significant increases in hourly pay and longevity pay and increasing their retirement benefits but still plan on retiring in three years once they get their high 3 years of pay.

OTHER FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO REDUCTION IN ACADEMY GRADUATES

APD consistently has thousands of applicants that apply to the police academy every year as evidenced by the number of “interest cards” submitted which is the first step to applying with APD. The overwhelming number of police academy applicants fail to get into the academy for any number of reasons including failing to meet minimum education and entry qualifications, unable to pass criminal background checks, unable to make it through psychological background analysis, failing the polygraph tests, lying on the on the applications or failing a credit check.

Once in the police academy, many cadets are unable to meet minimum physical requirements or unable to handle the training and academic requirements to graduate from the academy. The APD Police Academy is unable to keep up with retirement losses and for a number of years graduating classes have averaged 35 to 40 a class, well below the number to keep up with yearly retirements.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

It is great news that APD has added 116 new police officers to its ranks and respectable progress has been made in 24 months to rebuild the department. Mayor Keller’s goal to grow APD to leve1 of 1,200 sworn police as he promised is very commendable but in order to do that APD will have to hire and recruit a minimum of least 250 more police officers in order to go from the current number of 950 to 1,200. It’s likely in order to keep up with retirements at least 80 more will need to be hired for a total of 320.

It is highly doubtful APD will reach the goal of 1,200 sworn police by the end of Keller’s first term ending on January 1, 2022. The recruitment of new hires will be much easier said than done even with a media campaign and much harder for three reasons:

1. APD’s ability to attract officers from other New Mexico Law enforcement agencies has likely peaked with the other agencies also increasing their pay to compete with APD, and
2. Many recruited lateral hires are likely looking to retire sooner rather than later, coming to the City to increase their high three salary to retire with a more lucrative pension and collect the longevity pay bonuses, and
3. From a personnel management standpoint, it is highly likely that many APD police officers who are eligible for retirement now have decided to stay on and continue for a few more years with APD because of the significant increases in hourly pay and longevity pay and increasing their retirement benefits but still plan on retiring in three years once they get their high 3 years of pay.

Keller will probably have to be elected to a second term in 2021 to be able to reach his goal. No doubt Keller will campaign for a second term saying he needs to finish the work he has started. Another term as mayor is never guaranteed, as was the case with Harry Kinney, David Rusk, Ken Schultz, Jim Baca and even Martin Chavez. Louis Saavedra left office after one term. Richard Berry left office after serving two terms but left with an approval rating of 35% thereby ending his aspirations for governor.

What is very troubling is that all the increases in APD budget, personnel and new programs are not having any effect on bringing down the violent crime and murder rates. The city is no longer safe on many levels in virtually all quadrants of the city, despite Chief Michael Geier saying “Generally, it’s a safe city”. It is no longer an issue of not having the money, personnel or resources, but of a failed personnel resource management issue.

APD is still under a DOJ consent decree, violent crime continues to be at unacceptable levels and political fortunes can change dramatically and swiftly over the 2 years left in Keller’s first term. People of Albuquerque are increasingly becoming restless as a result of the city’s high crime rates. After more than two years in office, voters are expecting results from Mayor Tim Keller and many feel he is not delivering on his promises.

Mayor Keller Solicits Money For His One Alb Foundation From Those Who Do Business With City; Message: “The City Has Scratched Your Back, You Scratch My Foundation’s Back”

Over a year ago on January 7, 2019, Mayor Tim Keller announced the creation of the One Albuquerque Foundation. It’s a foundation formed by the city to collect donations from the general public to support city initiatives and projects. According to the city’s website page:

“… the endowment Fund raises funds in support of and to supplement measurable city priorities, including the housing voucher program for people experiencing homelessness, recruiting and retaining public safety officers, expanding opportunities for young people in Albuquerque, and equipping our workforce with the skills they need to succeed. Additional funding for these priorities will accelerate progress and help scale significant investments the City is already making go much farther, much faster.”

The web page described the fund as akin to the Mayor’s Charity Ball which raised money to be distributed to charitable efforts. It really is not, because with the Mayor’s Charity ball, the money raised was given to charitable causes, while the One Albuquerque Fund collects donations for the city and gives it to city priorities and projects, not charitable organizations or causes.

ONE ALBUQUERQUE FOUNDATION IS A 509(A)(3) SUPPORTING ORGANIZATION

On September 23, 2019, city officials estimated that the One Albuquerque Foundation could bring in as much as $400,000 annually. At the time, the city said it intended to apply donations to first responder recruitment, homelessness reduction efforts, youth programming and workforce development. Mayor Keller for his part said of the One Albuquerque Foundation:

“Every day, people in Albuquerque ask how they can step up and be part of addressing our city’s greatest challenges.”

According to news reports, the One Albuquerque Foundation is a 509(a)(3) supporting organization under the Internal Revenue (IRS) Code. Internal Revenue Service regulations state:

“A supporting organization is a charity that carries out its exempt purposes by supporting other exempt organizations, usually other public charities. … This classification is important because it is one means by which a charity can avoid classification as a private foundation, a status that is subject to a more restrictive regulatory regime.”

The One Albuquerque Foundation has no designated staff but it does have a board of directors. The board president is Charles Ashley III. A contract for fundraising has been negotiated by the board and the board makes necessary staffing decisions according to city spokeswoman Jessie Damazyn.

The city says the foundation complies with the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA), New Mexico’s sunshine law. Some local foundations that exist solely to support public entities do not adhered to IPRA. The University of New Mexico Foundation is the best example. According to city spokeswoman Jessie Damazyn, the foundation “will comply with IPRA at the direction of Mayor Keller.”

https://www.krqe.com/news/albuquerque-metro/one-albuquerque-fund-raises-17000-to-help-the-homeless/

https://www.abqjournal.com/1369627/donations-support-police-retention-recruitment.html

DONATIONS ANNOUNCED

On January 6, 2020, a year from the date it was created, Mayor Tim Keller held a press conference at a Downtown restaurant attended by city officials and members of the business community to formally launch the “One Albuquerque Fund”. Mayor Keller announced that since the One Albuquerque Fund was announced, the fund has raised $200,000. According to One Albuquerque Foundation president Charles Ashley III, none of the money currently in the fund came from diverting money from existing city programs.

During the press conference, the foundation presented checks of $5,000 to fund APD police recruitment efforts and $20,000 to provide additional housing vouchers for the homeless. The foundation’s board of directors has identified four areas that it wants to provide funding to:

1. Police recruitment
2. Job training
3. Homeless and
4. Youth initiatives

During the press conference Mayor Tim Keller had this to say about the One Albuquerque Foundation:

“[This is] the best way for the city to partner with businesses, individuals, nonprofits and foundations, because we’re all in this together as One Albuquerque. [It allows the city to better] facilitate public-private partnerships to deal with some of our biggest issues.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/1407588/new-foundation-will-support-city-initiatives.html

35 ENTITIES AND INDIVIDUALS DONATE $248,250 TO KELER’S FOUNDATION

On February 7, the Albuquerque Journal reported that the Albuquerque One Foundation has raised nearly $250,000. Records provided by the city pursuant to a request for public records show most of the money is not coming from individual citizens but rather a cross section of well-known businesses and individuals. The donations that make up the $250,000 are not small donations from people but are in the thousands made by a few.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1421506/familiar-businesses-back-abq-foundation.html

All told, 35 entities and individuals donated $248,250 to the fund. A breakdown of the larger donations made are as follows:

Garcia Subaru: $50,000. This is the single largest donation. Garcia Subaru is owned by the Garcia family, which also own several car dealerships, including Honda, Volkswagen, Infiniti, Cadillac, Mercedes, Jaguar, Land Rover and Alfa Romeo. The Garcia family also own significant parcels of commercial real estate in the Old Town Area and has a stake in the New Mexico United professional soccer team, with the city currently looking for a new site for a soccer stadium.

Comcast: $10,000 Comcast is the city’s cable contract provider.

New Mexico Gas Co.: $10,000. New Mexico Gas Co. has a utility franchise agreement that is subject to renewal with the city and pays a franchise fee to the city.

Blue Shield of New Mexico: $10,000. Blue Shield in the past has been a health care provider insurance carrier to city hall employees.

Netflix: $10,000. In 2018, Mayor Keller signed off on a $4.5 million city economic incentive package to assist NETFLEX in its purchase of Albuquerque Studios.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1239976/mayor-signs-off-on-netflix-deal.html

Golden Pride Chicken: $20,000, owners Larry and Dorothy Rainosek.

Frontier Restaurant: $5,000, owners Larry and Dorothy Rainosek.

Restaurants such as Golden Pride and the Frontier Restaurant must maintain a license to do business with the city and are subject to the zoning and code enforcement regulations including health code inspections.

Fresquez Concessions: $20,000. Fresquez Concessions has the current contract to run all the food and beverage concessions at the Albuquerque International Sunport.

Bradbury Stamm Construction: $10,000. Braburry and Stamm was the main general contractor for the $130,000,000 Art Bus Project and consistently bids on city construction contracts.

Property management company RMCI: $10,000. RMCI currently lists commercial properties in Albuquerque for sale.

Only six people made donations under their individual names. Those individuals making donations include:

Doug Brown, the president of the University of New Mexico Board of Regents: $5,000

Gary Goodman, the real estate developer behind Winrock Town Center: $5,000. Winrock Town Center is being developed under a Tax Increment District (TID) with all construction and development subject to City Planning Department review and approval

Nick Kapnison, owner of Nick and Jimmy’s Restaurant, Mikinos Creek Restaurant and El Patron Mexican Restaurant: $3,350.

Restaurants must maintain a license to do business with the city and are subject to the zoning and code enforcement regulations including health code inspections.

MAYOR KELLER PERSONALLY INVOLVED WITH SOLICITING DONATIONS

Mayoral spokeswoman Jessie Damazyn confirmed that many contributions made to the One Albuquerque Foundation came in response to face-to-face requests made by Mayor Tim Keller himself to meet with donors. Damazyn did not say exactly how many of the existing donors Keller met with personally to solicit contributions, but said that he had talked with “nearly all” of those on the list of 35 as well as many others “in contexts from coffees to community events to speaking engagements about how they can play a role from volunteering to donating.”

Golden Pride and Frontier owner Larry Rainosek said he donated the $25,000 after a meeting with Keller that the mayor’s office had arranged with him. Rainosek said he did not think his contribution bought influence with the mayor. However, he said the meeting about the foundation that eventually cost $25,000 gave him a long-awaited opportunity to air his grievances about Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) project and some changes he would like to see in the future.

Rainosack was a strong opponent of the ART Bus project and made it known that the ART Bus project was a disaster to his Frontier Restaurant and destroyed the character of Route 66. Rainosek is a highly respected and successful businessman. He should be entitled to express his opinion just like any other citizen without having to make any kind of donation requested by the Mayor, but none the less he obviously felt compelled to make the donation especially when he said:

“[Mayor Keller] had his agenda … and I had mine. … We always try to do things that will benefit the city and community”.

OVERSIGHT DEPARTMENTS FOR CORRUPTION

There are two primary, independent departments that function independent from the Mayor’s Office and City Council that that are primarily tasked for investigation of misconduct within city hall: the City Office of Independent Audit and the Office of Inspector General. Both can initiate investigations on their own. The City of Albuquerque Office of Independent Audits is designed to promote transparency, accountability, efficiency and effectiveness of City government. The responsibilities of the office of Inspector General include:

• Investigation of suspected corrupt City elected and appointed leaders
• Investigation of employees suspected of misconduct
• Investigations of suspected fraud, waste, mismanagement and abuse

https://www.cabq.gov/inspectorgeneral

https://www.cabq.gov/audit

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

The propriety of Mayor Tim Keller scheduling meetings to solicit private denotations for his charitable foundation from those who do business with the city or who interacts with city departments and who want to talk with him is so very, very wrong on so many levels with respect to ethical conduct and the appearance of impropriety. The solicitations by Mayor Keller during city business smacks of “pay to play” at worst and at best gives the appearance of impropriety and the exertion of political influence to compel donations from those who do business with the City of Albuquerque, either by contract or being regulated by city departments.

Donations of $50,000, $20,000, $10,000 and $5,000 as were made in the political world more likely than not come with the expectations of at least access to the elected official or a candidate and even commitments to be performed. What is very disturbing is that Keller had his office arranged the meetings, had the private conversations, but nothing is disclosed as to what was discussed, how the donation amounts were determined nor what commitments, if any were made, by Keller to the donors or the donors to Keller. On November 5, election night, Keller made it known on an election night radio program he is running for a second term in 2021. It is reasonable to assume that Keller when he solicited the donors to his foundation also solicited their support of him for his reelection bid and even donate to his campaign when the time was right. Arm twisting to make donations, even with Mayor Keller’s smile and knack for pleasant conversation and likeability, is still arm twisting and influence peddling.

The biggest argument that is being made publicly for the creation of the One Albuquerque Fund by Mayor Keller is that institutions such as the Albuquerque Public Schools, Central New Mexico Community College and the University of New Mexico all have their own foundations to support those entities and the City of Albuquerque should have its own foundation. The argument is bogus. The City has unilateral taxing authority that can be enacted by the City Council whenever it chooses while all the other institutions must rely upon the New Mexico Legislature for their funding. It is highly doubtful the One Albuquerque foundation is a 509(a)(3) supporting organization because the city is not a charity that carries out its exempt purposes by supporting other exempt organizations or other public charities. It’s a government entity responsible for essential services.

It is difficult to understand Mayor Keller’s motivation with One Albuquerque Foundation when he says “[This is] the best way for the city to partner with businesses, individuals, nonprofits and foundations … .” Simply put, no its not. The Albuquerque Community Foundation has been in existence for decades that is doing many of the things being suggested for One Albuquerque. Charitable donations from the general public are difficult enough as it is for private charitable organizations such as the United Way and the Albuquerque Community Foundation and now they have to compete with the Mayor’s One Albuquerque Foundation so he can say “we are all in this together”. The “United Way” charitable foundation sends the very same message and at one time city hall employees were allowed to participate in “United Way” fundraising and it was discontinued by Keller’s predecessor.

It is a pathetic practice for any government entity and its elected Mayor to solicit donations from the general public to carry out it duties and responsibilities to the public, especially when it has already allocated millions to specific causes in a $1.1 Billion budget such as police recruitment, job training and vouchers to provide temporary housing for the homeless. The City of Albuquerque is bloated not only with a $1.1 Billion Budget, but $55 Million Tax Increase revenues from a 2019 enacted tax that Keller agreed to breaking a his campaign promise to raise taxes without a public vote, a $35 Million Orphan Month Windfall as well as $30.5 million in lodger tax bond revenues. Mayor Keller’s approach is to ask for even more funding for his charitable foundation. Such a request reflects a total disconnect from reality. It reflects management negligence and an inability to live within one means and always demanding more.

To be perfectly blunt, Mayor Tim Keller needs to knock it off with his solicitation of donations for his charitable foundation from people who do business with the city, disavow any connection with it and step back and have a clean break from the foundation. Further, the Offices of General Counsel and Independent Audit need to review the fund-raising activities of the Mayor for the foundation and determine if his efforts were unethical and the propriety of the Foundation. At a bare minimum, all 35 donors need to be interviewed to determine what promises and commitments were made and if done in the context of any re election bid.

In the eyes of many city hall insiders, observers and and a few city hall confidential sources, Keller engaged in unethical conduct with his Charitable Foundation, but his top Administration Officials have gone along with it without any objection because he is “the Mayor”. For Keller to continue with the solicitation of donations by him will only make things worse and tarnish his reputation even further and no doubt will become an issue as he seeks a second term.

_______________________________________

POSTSCRIPT

On Thursday, February 20, the Albuquerque Journal published the following editorial:

Editorial Headline: ABQ may need a foundation, but not fundraiser in chief

“The One Albuquerque Fund sounds like a good idea. Launched last year by the city, it is designed to attract additional resources “in support of and to supplement city priorities.” Some examples: spending on police recruiting, housing vouchers and workforce development.

While all are fine ideas for the city to pursue given its police manpower shortage and homelessness issues, they also sound a whole lot like a political agenda.
And while there is no evidence of impropriety, when it comes to appearances Mayor Tim Keller is skating on thin ethical ice by personally soliciting money to help with pet projects that may help his political future.

First, it’s important to note the city’s elected officials can’t solicit campaign contributions – or receive them – from vendors who do business with the city. The same is true for Bernalillo County commissioners. And the reasons for that should be obvious. It just looks bad.

All told, according to a story published Monday by Journal reporter Jessica Dyer, 35 entities and individuals have ponied up $248,250 in contributions to the One Albuquerque Fund.

Keller spokesman Jessie Damazyn didn’t say how many donors Keller had met with personally but did say he had talked with “nearly all” of them. Fresquez Concessions, which has an active agreement with the city to run all food and beverage business at the Albuquerque International Sunport, contributed $20,000.

Other heavy hitters on the list who aren’t vendors but some of whose operations could intersect with city regulators include Comcast, Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico, New Mexico Gas Co., McDonald’s and Netflix. They have given $10,000 each.

The real estate and development industry also has contributed. Bradbury Stamm and property management company RMCI each gave $10,000. Real estate developer Gary Goodman kicked in $5,000, as did local restaurateur Nick Kapnison.

Golden Pride Chicken gave $20,000, and Frontier Restaurant gave $5,000. Both are owned by Larry Rainosek, who said he made the donations after a meeting with Keller that was set up by the Mayor’s Office.
Rainosek is an incredibly successful businessman, as well as a philanthropist who supports other causes. There is no reason to doubt him when he says “we always try to do things that will benefit the city and the community.”

Rainosek said he didn’t think the contribution bought influence but said the meeting about the foundation gave him a long-awaited opportunity to air his grievances about Albuquerque Rapid Transit and some changes he would like to see.

“He had his agenda,” Rainosek said. “And I had mine.”

It’s perfectly reasonable for Rainosek to want to vent his frustrations and objections to the mayor about ART. The problem is in the ask by the mayor, and that it appears Rainosek didn’t get a chance to air those grievances until the mayor wanted a donation for his foundation.

Meanwhile, Damazyn said donations would not affect how the city chooses contractors, citing the city’s procurement process. She also noted other entities like Albuquerque Public Schools and the University of New Mexico have foundations.

And while it is a big plus that the city foundation will comply with the state Inspection of Public Records Act, according to Damazyn (the UNM Foundation has argued in court it is not subject to the state’s public records law), it is important to note APS and UNM have separate boards so the superintendent and president can do their jobs running their respective operations rather than a perennial fundraising tour of pet projects.

If Keller wants the One Albuquerque Fund to succeed and prosper, with no political taint, he can’t be fundraiser in chief as well as mayor. He needs to remove himself from the fundraising process and let the foundation rise or fall on the work it does.”

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1422529/abq-may-need-a-foundation-but-not-fundraiser-in-chief.html

COMMENTARY

The Albuquerque Journal editorial was a lot more diplomatic than I was in my blog article. As far as I am concerned the Journal let Keller off way too easy. My reasons are clear, Keller made a reputation as State Auditor to run for Mayor on the carefully cultivated image of being a crusader against “waste, fraud and abuse” of public money. Charitable donations are no different. To be perfectly blunt, Mayor Tim Keller needs to knock it off with his solicitation of donations for his charitable foundation from people who do business with the city, disavow any connection with it and step back and have a clean break from the foundation. Further, the Offices of General Counsel and Independent Audit need to review the fund-raising activities of the Mayor for the foundation and determine if his efforts were unethical and the propriety of the Foundation. At a bare minimum, all 35 donors need to be interviewed to determine what promises and commitments were made and if done in the context of any reelection bid.

Elected County Sheriffs Who Refuse To Enforce Reg Flag Law Need To Resign; Suspension Of Law Enforcement Certifications Appropriate Remedy

The 2nd, 4th, and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution are part of the Bill of Rights. All three are often cited by gun rights advocate’s and fanatics as prohibiting any meaningful control legislation. The Amendments are as follows:

The 2nd to the United States provides in part:

“… the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The 4th Amendment provides:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things … “

The 14th Amendment provides:

“No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

2020 NEW MEXICO LEGISLATURE ENACTS “RED FLAG” LAW

On February 14, after 3 long hours of emotional debate on the House Floor, the New Mexico House of Representatives passed the “red flag law” on a 39-31 vote. 17 states have already adopted “red-flag” laws, with 13 states passing them since the shootings at the high school in Parkland, Fla. The red flag bill was the most controversial legislation considered during the 2020 session. Much of the House floor debate fell along party lines with Democrats holding a 46-24 edge in the chamber. Virtually all 24 Republicans in the House voted against the bill. As Republicans cast their votes, they held up copies of the Constitution. Democrats should have held up copies of “death certificates” to symbolize victims of New Mexico domestic gun violence.

Senate Bill 5 establishes the Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order Act. It will allow for the court-ordered seizure of guns from individuals deemed an imminent danger to themselves or others. Under the legislation, it allows law enforcement officers, acting on information provided by a relative, school administrator or employer, to seek a court order prohibiting someone from having firearms. Exclusive authority is given to law enforcement to make the decision to file a petition, but the petition must be based on whether there’s probable cause to believe the individual “poses a significant danger of causing imminent personal injury to self or others.” A court could order the temporary seizure of the person’s firearms for up to 10 days and until a hearing could be held. After a hearing, the ban could be extended one year. The original version of the bill would have allowed family and others to file the petitions, but that was taken out as a compromise to those that claimed that it would result in abuse.

Senate Bill 5 is a natural extension of the 2019 New Mexico Legislature passage of Senate Bill 328 which prohibits gun possession by someone who’s subject to an order of protection under the Family Violence Protection Act. Under the enacted legislation domestic abusers must surrender their firearms to law enforcement. The gun possession prohibition also applies to people convicted of other crimes.

GOVERNOR’S REACTION

Senate Bill 5 was a major priority of the Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. She had the exclusive authority to place it on the agenda for the 30-day session. Soon after passage, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced she will sign it into law once it reaches her desk. The Governor had this to say about passage in a statement:

“This is a tremendous victory for New Mexicans’ public safety. This tool will empower law enforcement to keep our communities safer. It will minimize the plain and unacceptable risks of gun violence and suicide all across New Mexico.”

OPPOSITION VOICED

Thirty of the state’s 33 elected sheriffs strenuously opposed the bill. Many of the sheriffs are now threatening to refuse to enforce the law. However, the new law also provides that law enforcement officers will not be immune to liability if they failed to carry out their duties under the Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order Act or other state laws.

The Hobbs News-Sun reported Lea County Sheriff Corey Helton told an audience at a Eunice City Hall meeting that he is ready to go to jail, if necessary, for refusal to enforce the law. Helton said he’d be a one-term sheriff because a judge would place him under arrest. But he said he’d be able to sleep at night for standing his ground. Sheriff Helton believes the law is unconstitutional, violating the Second Amendment right to bear arms and 14th Amendment which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.

https://www.santafenewmexican.com/ap/new-mexico-sheriff-vows-to-go-to-jail-over-proposed/article_522a69ea-af0b-58fb-872b-5226976b5eda.html

Republican lawmakers were quick to denounce the legislation as a breach of gun owners’ constitutional rights. Republican lawmakers raised the prospect of deadly confrontations between families and police officers who show up to seize firearms.

Representative James Strickler, R-Farmington, put it this way:

“I’m just afraid we’re going to have a dead police officer or a dead mom or dad who feel like their rights were infringed on.”

State Representative Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad had this to say about the bill:

“[The bill] was probably written by a committee of people who don’t know how the real world works.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/1420559/legislators-send-firearms-bill-to-lujan-grisham.html

https://www.kob.com/new-mexico-news/proposed-red-flaw-law-passes-nm-house-heads-to-governors-desk/5644417/

ENACTED 2019 GUN CONTROL MEASURES

On March 8, 2019, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law Senate Bill 8 (SB 8) enacted by the 2019 Legislature which requires background checks for guns sold privately and at gun shows. Debate on the legislation was hot and heavy, but SB 8 past the Senate on a 22-20 vote and passed the House 42-27 vote. With the Governor’s signature Senate Bill 8 become law effective on July 1, 2019. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham also signed Senate Bill 328 which prohibits gun possession by someone who’s subject to an order of protection under the Family Violence Protection Act which prohibits the possession of firearms by domestic abusers.

BACKGROUND CHECK MANDATES OF NEW STATE LAW

Under the enacted 2019 enacted legislation, private gun sales must go through a federal firearms licensee to do a federal background check.

https://www.krqe.com/news/politics-government/gov-lujan-grisham-signs-gun-background-check-bill-into-law/1836222192

Licensed gun dealers are already required to do federal background checks on gun sales. The new state law requires a background check before any gun sale, including between two individuals.

There are two exceptions: sales between two close family members and sales between law enforcement officials.

The new legislation plugs a “loophole” that allows two individuals to arrange a sale on their own to avoid a background check. Under the law passed, people who want to sell a gun they own must arrange for a licensed dealer to do the background check for them before they make the sale.

Licensed gun dealers charge up to $35 for federal background checks. Supporters argue the background check makes it more difficult for criminals or others prohibited from having a weapon and obtain a gun. Opponents argued criminals will ignore the law arguing background checks are nothing more than a financial burden and annoyance to law-abiding gun owners who are exercising their constitutional rights under the Second Amendment and their right to bear arms.

LAW ENFORCEMENT OPPOSITION

During both the 2019 and 2020 legislative sessions, elected county sheriff’s across New Mexico strenuously objected to the legislation that eventually was enacted. Elected sheriffs mounted a strong lobbying campaign to defeat passage to the point of appearing before the legislative committees in mass, fully uniformed and armed to make their point of disdain for the legislation.

The County Sheriffs repeatedly spoke out against the gun legislation during legislative committee hearings. Some elected sheriffs testified that they simply would not enforce the legislation if it became law. 28 of New Mexico’s counties and municipalities in the state have passed “Second Amendment Sanctuary” ordinances in defiance to enacted legislative gun control measures.

https://bearingarms.com/tom-k/2019/03/22/nm-sec-state-rejects-gop-petition-put-gun-control-ballot/

NEW MEXICO ATTORNEY GENERAL ISSUES WARNING

Attorney General Hector Balderas is the chief law enforcement official for the state of New Mexico. The Attorney General chairs the law enforcement board that issues law enforcement certifications to virtually every law enforcement sworn officer in the state. Last year, County Sheriffs threats not to enforce background checks became so pervasive that on April 4, 2019, Balderas sent a strongly worded letter of warning to virtually all sheriffs and police chiefs throughout New Mexico telling them that they risk legal liability if they refuse to enforce the new background checks law for gun sales.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1300209/ag-directs-sheriffs-chiefs-to-enforce-gun-law.html

Balderas advised them of their legal obligation to enforce law and its requirements outlined regardless of whether they agree with the legislation. In his letter, Balderas acknowledged that sheriffs and police chiefs have discretion over how to run their agencies. However, Balderas reminded the law enforcement command staff that personal political opinions and law enforcement discretion:

“do not absolve us of our duty to enforce validly enacted laws. … As law enforcement officials we do not have the freedom to pick and choose which state laws we enforce. … In short, the taxpayers of your city or county assume the financial risk of your decision to impose your personal views over the law. … [Discretion] cannot subvert the rule of law. All New Mexicans, including public [law enforcement] officials, are equally subject to the law.”

Balderas wrote a police chief or sheriff who refuses to enforce the law could be held liable if a gun sale results in a prohibited person obtaining a firearm and doing harm.

On April 5, 2019, Democrat Cibola County Sheriff Tony Mace, who is also president of the New Mexico Sheriffs’ Association, objected to Attorney General Balderas letter saying law enforcement officers have the discretion in how they enforce the law and Deputy Sheriffs can issue a warning citation without charging.

Sheriff Mace is quoted as saying:

“[Sheriff’s are] elected by the people in our communities and that’s what we’re looking at – what do the people in our communities want?”

Elected Sheriff’s cannot “pick and choose” the laws they like as AG Balderas correctly points out. It is downright laughable that Sheriff Mace compares mandatory background checks to issuing a warning citation without charging after pulling over a speeding driver. You cannot instruct law enforcement to use “warning citations” with the intent to subvert the law.

NEW MEXICO’S SUICIDE RATE

Most gun deaths in New Mexico are a result of suicide and therefore the state’s suicide rate is a critical part of the debate when it comes to a red flag law. Overall, the state suicide rate is 21.9 deaths per 100,000 people, which is more than 50% higher than the national average. Ten counties in New Mexico that are largely rural areas of the state have suicide rates at least twice the national average, which is 14 suicide deaths per 100,000 people. Studies in states that have “red flag laws” and that have “risk-based firearm seizure laws” were associated with reduced suicide rates.

NEW MEXICO’S DOMESTIC VIOLENCE RATE

On September 16, 2017, according to an annual study published by the Violence Policy Center, it was reported women are more likely to be killed by men in New Mexico than nearly any other states.

http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/new-mexico-s-rate-of-women-killed-by-men-among/article_eb7e4a2c-273d-5eb6-8007-e5936639b64f.html

The study found the state has the 10th-highest rate of women killed by men, marking the third straight year New Mexico had appeared toward the top of the list, while New Mexico’s overall homicide rate ranked lower.

Current statistics are 1 in 3 New Mexico women will experience domestic violence in thier lifetime. 18,000 domestic violence calls were made in 2017 with 8,000 calls made in Albuquerque. 30% of the calls had a child as a witness. Nationwide 3 women are killed daily from domestic violence.

New Mexico has ranked among the top 10 states with the highest rates of women killed by men during the last decade. The Violence Policy Center promotes gun control and found that each state at the top of the list of women killed by men have a high rate of firearm ownership which no doubt includes New Mexico’s gun culture.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

It is the likes of Republican State Representatives Cathryn Brown and James Strickler, and Republican Lea County Sheriff Corey Helton Democrat Cibola County Sheriff Tony Mace who do not know “how the real-world works”, let alone how the Bill of Rights and United States Constitution work. Brown, Strickler, Helton, Mace show a serious ignorance of the law. All 4 have a warped interpretation of constitutional rights that have rotted out all of their common sense and prevent any reasoning with them which is the mentality of gun rights fanatics. The 2nd, 4th and 14th Amendments, often cited by gun fanatics, are not absolute rights. Each separately and together have limitations and exceptions, are subject to court interpretations and are not black and white words. The reality is that there are many limitations under the law and to our constitutional rights guaranteed by the 2nd, 4th and 14th amendments.

In the “real world” of domestic violence, mass shootings, mental illness, and suicide, those who use guns are more interested in doing harm to others or themselves and could not careless about their constitutional rights. In the “real world”, many would say law enforcement violate constitutional rights whenever they sign off on a search warrant based on probable cause to seize private property. Search warrants based on probable cause are used daily as an effective tool to gather evidence of a crime. Extreme Risk Protection Orders require probable cause that a person poses and immediate threat to themselves or others before guns can be seized and for that reason are similar to search warrants relied upon by law enforcement.

What I learned as the Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney is that Albuquerque’s dirty little secret is that domestic violence is the number-one reason why a woman is admitted to the emergency room of the University of New Mexico Hospital. Statics in Albuquerque showed that after about the 10th or 11th time there is a call out of the Albuquerque Police Department to a home for domestic violence, it is usually to pick a woman up in a body bag. This fact makes it very troubling to understand why any elected sheriff would refuse to enforce New Mexico’s newly enacted red flag law and refuse to assist anyone who is at risk for great bodily harm in securing an Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order .

ELECTED SHERIFF’S WHO REFUSE TO ENFORCE NEW RED FLAG LAW NEED TO RESIGN IMMEDIATELY

Given New Mexico’s high suicide rates, domestic violence killings with guns and the threat of mass shootings, it is shameful that elected New Mexico county sheriffs are far more concerned about “second amendment rights” that allows almost anyone, including those who pose a harm to themselves and others, to have a firearm of their choosing. The elected sheriff’s hide behind the 2nd Amendment so as not to protect or enforce the rights of others who have the rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” just as much guaranteed under the constitution as the right to bear arms.

The elected sheriffs who oppose the meaningful gun control legislation that the red flag law represents ignore their duty and responsibilities “to serve and protect the general public” that elected them. They choose to promote their own fanatical “pro-gun” political philosophy and their own personal interpretation of the law and constitutional rights. New Mexico’s Domestic Violence cases make up a large share of violent crime cases. The public’s safety and enactment of laws for the protection of those that easily become victims of gun violence, even by family members, should be law enforcement’s priority, not enforcing only those laws they feel that conform to their own “pro-gun” philosophy. The enactment of laws is the responsibility of the legislature, not law enforcement. The meaning and interpretation of the laws enacted is the responsibility of the court’s, and not of law enforcement.

Elected County Sheriffs have an ethical and legal obligation to honor their oaths of office. They cannot pick and choose what laws the agree with and want to enforce.
Elected Sheriffs who refuse to enforce the law are also asking taxpayers to assume the financial risk of their decision to impose their personal views over the law. There is a real possibility of a relative of a dead crime victim in a domestic violence case will sue a county sheriff for negligence and wrongful death when that sheriff refuses to seek a protective order asked for by the crime victim to seize guns where there was enough probable cause evidence to secure it, but the sheriff declines saying such protective orders based on probable cause violate the constitution.

Any elected County Sheriff who refuses to enforce the new red flag law should resign immediately and the county commissions need to appoint law enforcement who will respect their oath of office and set aside political philosophy. Such a refusal should justify the Attorney General to send letters suspending law enforcement certifications.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham needs to sign the new red flag law as soon as possible making it law and send copies of the new law to all 30 elected County Sheriffs. The letter should tell them they have the legal obligation to enforce the red flag law and if they refuse to enforce the law, they need to resign their position. Too many have died in New Mexico from suicides and domestic violence to the point that “gun rights fanaticism” that places gun rights over victims has no place in law enforcement.

For a related blog article see:

https://www.petedinelli.com/2019/04/08/i-will-not-enforce-the-law-admission-of-negligence-by-law-enforcement/

VIP Program Funding In Doubt; Include Funding In 2020-2021 City Budget

With just a few days remaining of the 2020 New Mexico State Legislature’s 30 day session, the legislature has still not taken final action on the primary purpose of the session: enactment of the 2020-2021 budget that will take effect July 1, 2020. The session ends February 20, and the Senate has yet to adopt the House approved version of the budget and still needs to weigh other financial legislation in the coming days. According to Senator John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, the powerful chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, the Senate will need to make about $160 million in cuts to ensure New Mexico maintains its targeted level of financial reserves.

The budget bill passed by the House and under consideration by the Senate Finance Committee calls for about $7.6 billion in ongoing spending, an increase of roughly 7.5% over this year’s spending levels. The House Bill would leave the state with reserves of 26%, one percentage point higher than the 25% target, according to nonpartisan legislative analysts. According to Senator Smith other pieces of legislation moving through the Legislature would also have budgetary impacts, such as potential changes to the tax code and stand-alone spending measures which will result in the 25% target being exceeded. As a result, Smith said that the Senate will need to trim about $160 million in proposed spending to put the state on track for the 25% reserves

https://www.abqjournal.com/1420474/senator-warns-of-budget-feeding-frenzy.html

With the enactment of a state budget going to the wire with so many cuts being discussed, its more likely that not one of the first cuts that will be made by the Senate Appropriations Committee is to slash the City of Albuquerque’s request for State Funding.

KELLER ASKS FOR $30 MILLION FROM STATE

During a press conference held on November 19, Mayor Keller announced that he had asked New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico State Legislature for $30 million in funding during the upcoming 2020 legislative session to “modernize” APD. Keller said $20 million dollars of that will go to changing the way police file reports and produce crime stats and how they connect all the crime-fighting data into one.

The $20 million in upgrades in the city’s existing crime-fighting technology being requested by the Mayor Keller from the New Mexico Legislature includes upgrades to the Albuquerque Police Departments (APD) computer and records systems. The systems are used by APD police in their assigned squad cars and the mobile crime scene units. It also includes funding for new technology in gunshot detection devices and license plate scanners.

Major upgrade funding is being sought for APD’s 911 dispatching capabilities to include Global Positioning System (GPS). As it exists today, when a call is made to 911, the answering dispatcher will dispatch a police officer usually based on availability regardless of how far away the officer is.

Each time a 911 call is answered by dispatch, the call can get routed through the Real Time Crime Center (RTCC) where upon RTCC analysts work through different records systems to find out as much background about who the call is made about so that the information can be relayed to the dispatched police officer. Such background information is critical to the police officer to know what they may be dealing with, including identifying a violent offender or a person who is mentally ill.
Keller said:

“We’re dealing with systems that are decades old and older. It’s a situation that is holding back everything that we are trying to do as a department. It’s essentially a deferred investment that I wish we would have made a decade ago and that we have to make now.”

The other $10 million would go to the city’s new violence intervention program.

https://www.koat.com/article/mayor-claims-he-has-plan-to-address-albuquerques-crime-crisis/29897479

https://www.koat.com/article/city-leaders-announce-new-crime-fighting-measures/29863717

VIP PROGRAM EXPLAINED

On November 22, Mayor Tim Keller announced what he called a “new initiative” to target violent offenders called “Violence Intervention Plan” (VIP). The VIP initiative is in response to the city’s recent murders resulting in the city tying the all-time record of homicides at 72 in one year. By December 30, the city had a new all-time record of 82 homicides in one year. Mayor Keller proclaimed the VIP is a “partnership system” that includes law enforcement, prosecutors and social service and community provides to reduce violent crime. According to officials, the city had been working for months on a Violence Intervention Program. The VIP program is modeled after the “Ceasefire” Program in Oakland, California, which targets gang-related violence, but VIP will include domestic violence.

According to Mayor Keller:

“This is a first-of-its kind program for Albuquerque that pairs law enforcement and public health working together to put the drivers of violent crime behind bars while creating paths away from violence for those who are not yet drawn into the cycle of violence or are looking for a way out. Our partners in the program include the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General, Bernalillo County District Attorney, New Mexico State Police, Probation and Parole, ATF, DEA, FBI, US Marshal, US Attorney, Family & Community Services, Bernalillo County Community Health Council and more.”

Mayor Keller acknowledged the “VIP” program is modelled after other such programs in other cities and that APD has been working on the program since spring. According to Keller, in other cities, it has brought down violent crime rates by as much as 10%.

Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair for her part said that APD started their research at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and visited Oakland, which has implemented “Operation Ceasefire”, a data driven crime fighting strategy to coordinate law enforcement, social services and the community to reduce gun and gang violence. According to Nair, the city’s VIP program will be looking at Domestic Violence and said:

“There is a big component of gang violence here but if we focus on that we’re not going to change. We need to make it broader than that.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/1394576/city-launches-violence-intervention-program.html

VIP FOUR MAJOR AREAS OF CONCENTRATION

There are 4 major components of the VIP program:

LAW ENFORCEMENT:

APD will be “restructured” to create a first-of-its-kind “Violence Intervention Division” with its own Commander. The division is designed to make cross-functional partnership as productive as possible. The goal is to remove the barriers between investigative units, increase coordination among field officers, violent crime, undercover detectives, the intelligence unit, forensic techs, crime analysts and victim advocates to fight violent crime. Law enforcement partners on the program include the State Police, Probation and Parole, ATF, DEA, FBI, US Marshal and Homeland Security. (EDITORS NOTE: There is absolutely nothing new about this component of VIP. It is standard practice for all of these agencies to coordinate their activities and many times participate in joint initiatives depending on funding for tactical plans.)

PROSECUTION PARTNERS:

Prosecutors from all systems including the Attorney General, District Attorney, US Attorney and Office of Superintendent of Insurance will collaborate to share information and make sure cases are going to the appropriate teams and courts. Prosecutors and law enforcement partners will also work with analysts from APD’s Real Time Crime Center and the NIBIN and Gun Violence Reduction Units to review shooting incidents on a bi-weekly basis. (EDITORS NOTE: There is absolutely nothing new about this component of VIP. The most recent example is the very successful coordinated auto theft initiative with APD, BCSO, the State Police, the Superintendent of Insurance and the DA’s Office to combat auto thefts.)

SOCIAL SERVICES:

The City has always funded social services aimed at violence reduction. However, for the first time Family and Community Services is specifically working with the community to identify the most effective evidence-based violence reduction strategies, and requiring providers to work together in the Violence Intervention Program. The administration created a Deputy Director of Health position held by a clinical social worker.

COMMUNITY PARTNERS

The City will reach out to community partners, including the Bernalillo County Community Health Council, that are dealing with the causes and effects of violent crime to work together on this program. A technical advisor will lead partnership-based violence reduction efforts to improve police-community trust and sustain the strategy over time.”

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/mayor-keller-touts-new-plan-to-tackle-violent-crime/5561150/?cat=500

LEGISLATURE FUNDING IN DOUBT

On February 5, it was reported that the request for the $10 million in VIP funding by the city was made too late. The Keller Administration is now worried the funding won’t be included in the final $7.6 billion budget that passed the House. The funding can still be included in the final version of the bill that passes the Senate, but there is no guarantee of that happening.

State Representative Daymon Ely, D-Corrales, a sponsor of the bill had this to say:

“The problem is on the money request; it may or may not be too late,” “I’m hoping we can get there, but I’m not optimistic. It wasn’t a delay in the legislative process. … It’s one of those things. I just think we’re all going to have to get better at working partnerships between local and state entities, and even among the legislators themselves.”

State Representative Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, another sponsor of that bill, echoed Ely’s concerns when she said:

“I don’t fault the city for this, because they’re constantly looking for solutions. … We probably needed to have started talking about this as a funding priority in the summertime, at the latest.”

Mayor Tim Keller, a former state senator, said he is not concerned and had this to say:

“There’s a long road ahead. … We’re running it as a stand-alone bill because we want to educate people on how important it is and what it is. Those bills usually get rolled in as the budget leaves the House or in the end as it leaves the Senate. That’s the way we’ll know if we’re going to get that funding or not.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/1417519/statewide-violence-intervention-program-awaits-funding.html

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

From the all the news account, or lack thereof, nothing has been reported on the status of the city’s $30 million request in funding. Mayor Keller appears not to be that concerned about securing the $10 million from the legislature for his VIP program, at least not as concerned as the sponsors of the bill State Representatives Daymon Ely and Gail Chasey. No doubt its because even if the funding fails, Keller knows the City of Albuquerque has an operating budget of $1.1 billion for the fiscal year that began July 1, 2019 and ends on June 30, 2020. It was the first time in city history that the city operating budget exceed the $1 Billion figure. The 2019-2020 budget represented an overall 11% increase in spending over the previous year.

In May, 2018, 5 months after he assumed office, Mayor Tim Keller also signed into law a gross receipt sales tax increase enacted by the City Council. 70% of the tax was dedicated to public safety. The tax raises $55 million a year in revenue. Keller broke a campaign promise not to raise taxes, even for public safety, without a public vote. The rational for the tax increase was that the city was faced with a $40 million dollar deficit. The deficit never materialized and the tax increase was not repealed.

Mayor Keller has been given everything he has wanted for public safety and then some by the Albuquerque city Council. Its likely the council will again give him more for the VIP Program. On April 1, 2020, Mayor Keller will be submitting his proposed 2020-2021 budget that must be approved after public hearings by the City Council. Gross receipts tax revenues have in fact increased over the last year and it is expected that there will be yet another increase in the city budget and it will exceed last years budget of $1.1 Billion. The City could very easily absorb the loss of $10 million or even the full $30 million being requested from the legislature and that is something the city should have done in the first place.